A small matter of publishing

Well it feels like an eternity but finally I can announce that Fare City is now being published by Digital Chocolate Inc. I have just withdrawn the Finkly Interactive versions of the game as the rebranded versions propagate across the App Stores. This brings to a close the game’s first phase, just under four months since launch.

This news raises a whole raft of questions and I will do my best to give answers to at least some of them here.

Why fall in with a publisher?

The days of the App Store operating as the Wild West of the computing world are gone. With over 100,000 apps in the store it is almost impossible for an independent developer to get much visibility. Viral marketing only works up to a point. Firstly, it still takes a lot of time and effort – time that could be used to develop new updates and new applications. Secondly, there is so much noise around the iPhone space as everybody is trying to market virally it is hard to create any momentum. Basically, to be successful you must first be successful – you need an existing customer base to reach your customers.

When Fare City launched it got a huge break in being featured by Apple. However, that didn’t last long enough to make a breakthrough in the charts. As many people have found, once you fall off the front of the App Store sales dry up. (Review sites help very little – partly because many have little traffic themselves, but mainly because most users don’t read reviews.) Actually, Fare City sales have not gone entirely, for the past two months numbers have been steady, but with a 99c price tag the volumes just do not generate any sensible level of return.

So, the first purpose in moving to a publisher is to gain exposure for the game. From reviews and user feedback we know it’s a great game. If we can get it in front of more eyeballs it just might start paying some bills.

The second purpose is to remove the burden of marketing from our shoulders to free up more time to do interesting stuff.

How will it affect the game?

Today the answer is – it won’t. That is, the Digital Chocolate version is all but identical to the current version. The game play, maps, modes, leaderboards, etc. are unchanged. New customers will see a new splash screen and credits, but that is about all.

(Actually, I need to nuance that answer. The lite version (now named Fare City FREE) has a reduced game time – it seems that 3.5 minutes was too good and people just didn’t bother to upgrade.)

Longer term the hope is that increased sales will permit us to continue to add new maps and game modes (plus other features like two-player). There are plenty of ideas on the table, but with the need to put food on it as well it has been hard to give them priority.

What about existing customers?

This was the hardest question for us when considering the change. The Digital Chocolate versions are effectively new applications in the App Store with no links to the Finkly versions. Therefore, we have no method to provide future updates to owners of those versions. In this our hands are completely tied by the limitations of the App Store.

Of course, anyone with the Finkly versions will be able to continue to play them as before. The OpenFeint leaderboards and achievements are the same and should integrate seamlessly between the old and new. Version 1.1 (which according to our stats has propagated to almost all owners) has proven itself very robust since launch back at the beginning of December – so much so that the Digital Chocolate version contains only one small bug fix from 1.1.

But what about the updates? Well, it is true that future updates to the game will not be available to existing customers unless they buy the Digital Chocolate version and no doubt this will annoy some folk. However, I hope people will consider that Fare City has delivered incredible game time for 99c, and there is no need (at this time) to buy again. If and when new content is released the game price will probably still be 99c, and then you will only need to buy if you want the extra content. It seems to me that won’t be too much of hardship really.

Anyway, there it is. The die is cast and a new day dawns over this Fare City. Let us see what it brings.

10 Responses to “A small matter of publishing”

  1. Mack Says:
    January 13th, 2010 at 20:54

    I even own the original but this is great news.

    An excellent value for the tiny price tag and now you guys will be free to focus on what I really care about…making more great games!

  2. Finkly Says:
    January 13th, 2010 at 20:57

    Thanks, we appreciate your support!

  3. Frog Says:
    January 14th, 2010 at 11:01

    Sorry, but I can’t appreciate that you’ve this. I understand that you have to pay bills, but I stopped playing 1.0.2 a while ago and haven’t upgraded to 1.1 yet, which of course is stupid. Now I have to buy it again in order to get the update, which I won’t do, even while I greatly enjoyed the game. I won’t pay 2 times for a game…..

  4. Finkly Says:
    January 14th, 2010 at 11:09

    I’m sorry to hear that Frog. Our biggest concern was to see all our players upgrade to 1.1 before the changeover, but 1.1 was released six weeks ago. If you weren’t interested in picking it up in that time why worry about it now?

  5. Frog Says:
    January 19th, 2010 at 08:04

    I was interested in picking this up, but my iPod was full and there was no place left. Anyway, I guess it’s too late now….

  6. Finkly Says:
    January 19th, 2010 at 13:41

    Sadly so. With the inflexibility of the App Store we had no choice but to take down the original when the Digital Chocolate version was released. 🙁

  7. Frog Says:
    January 23rd, 2010 at 01:44


  8. GeeksRock Says:
    January 23rd, 2010 at 10:21

    Heard about this a bit late.. Apple should definitely let developers merge the users after publishers change.. This is just a pain in the a** to all of us.

    Some numbers about how many users were left in the dust would be great.

  9. Dealing with the pain of transition | Finkly Interactive Says:
    January 23rd, 2010 at 13:45

    […] updated. This suggests that practically all copies still on device did get updated (though as Frog laments there are exceptions). However, as many people keep stuff lying around after they’ve stopped […]

  10. CyberGreg Says:
    February 9th, 2010 at 17:12

    Totally understand and wish you well. FareCity is a great game and well worth a double purchase when the new content becomes available.

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